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Tools For Living: 15 signs your rave family may be fake friends

“Fake friends” are everywhere, but arguably nowhere more than the music scene. The music entertainment industry has a long reputation for being cut throat at best and a breeding a culture of toxicity at its worst. It seems there’s always someone wanting something for nothing, or unabashedly looking to divide and exclude, or worse yet, looking to take advantage point blank. Likewise, the festival circuit draws people who are lost or looking for instant escape, who often seek material excess to the point of endangering their own lives. They are often empty, wandering, or searching for belonging through immediate gratification, and partying for days on end without the proper mind/body recharge. These are all the worst stereotypes for the mere sake of argument.

Yet, as with any culture, there’s always the good that balance out the bad. There’s also the collaborators and the teachers, the connectors and bridge builders, the lovers and the vibers. Music is known for being a truly transformative space, a place of spiritual transcendence and empowerment, a space where everyone comes together in the same universal meaning of oneness. The live music experience is also a place to deal with some pretty heavy emotions inwardly. So it can also be a dark place at times, wherein many can become lost or trapped if they’re not being mindful.

Do you find yourself questioning the authenticity and connection with your music-centered work or play friendships? Does your gut tell you that the one who calls themself your “soulmate” or “twin flame,” but doesn’t want to do the emotional work when things get tough, may not be the one for you? At any point, did you come to find out they may have been lost in some easy moment at the main stage? Have you fallen into a narcissist’s web or an emotionally-abusive friend? Or perhaps you’ve felt the sting of “toxic positivity” from that anonymous “PLUR Warrior” on Twitter? Or maybe even fallen prey to the unruly “cancel culture” mob online?

Do families that rave together, stay together?

Humans are complex creatures and, despite the marvel of technological and medical advancement today, even trained neuroscientists admit they still don’t much about how the brain works. Just like people can find themselves in toxic romantic relationships, toxic music friendships are very much a real thing. For this special monthly edition of Tools For Living, CE presents 15 common warning signs that you’ve got fake friends, plus how to walk away. Here’s how to spot a fake friend, according to the experts…

1. They act more like a fair-weather friend.

Do people in your rave circle feel less like family and more like relationships of convenience? Do they find a way to only be around you when it could benefit them? Then, once you truly need them or reach out for support, they completely ignore you or disappear? Tiana Leeds (MA, LMFT), a licensed marriage and family therapist, categorizes these sorts of actions are the textbook behaviors of a fake friend. Maybe they come to your house party so they can socialize, but when you’re struggling, they’re nowhere to be found. Begin taking stock of these behaviors and then start trusting your gut on how others treat you. If it feels like they just aren’t invested, then that’s likely because you’ve got a fake friend on your hands.

2. They aren’t around when it counts.

Similarly, pychotherapist Annette Nuñez (MS, PhD) says if a friend is virtually never there for you when you’re going through a hard time, they’re more than likely a fake friend. Being there for you in times of need to offer you emotional support, just doesn’t seem beneficial in their eyes. Plus when and if they do “support” you, it feels shallow and disingenuous. Leeds says, “A quality friendship includes support, loyalty, and closeness—three things you cannot find in a fake friend.”

3. They always seem to need something from you.

Fake friends tend to only reach out or get together when they want or need something from you, Leeds explains. Perhaps one day you’re surprised they texted you to ask how you are, or call you their “rave family,” or send you a positive affirmation of your relationship, or ask you to hang out. Then, later that night upon seeing them in person, you come to learn that they’ve trying to date your roommate and just want you to “put in a good word.”

4. They’re always in a competition with you.

Are certain people in your friend circle always trying to one-up you in conversation, whether in one-on-one or group settings? Does every conversation feel like an argument? Do they talk over you or generally give off the vibe that they want to seem better than you? Both Leeds and Nuñez say that fake friends can be overly competitive, which ultimately stems from a place of jealousy or insecurity. This is also a tell-tale sign of a conversational narcissist: someone who constantly turns the conversation toward themselves and loses interest when the conversation is no longer about them. 

5. Instead of lifting you up, they feed off making you feel down on yourself.

A fake friend is not going to uplift you the way a true friend or family member does. Leeds says that when you’re around a fake friend, “you may feel insecure, used, or judged” even though you don’t hold these views of yourself. That’s because it’s coming from the outside and, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they thrive on putting you down to lift themselves up. Sometimes, nothing even has to be said in any actual words. But you can undoubtedly feel their judgmental tone or disapproving looks.

6. They don’t celebrate or affirm you.

Did you maybe get a work promotion, or hit a major life milestone, and they never seem to be available to celebrate your win? Not only will fake friends not join in celebrations when it comes to your successes or accomplishments, but they will oftentimes downplay them, saying things like, “That’s not a big deal. Anyone can do that.” If it’s especially toxic, as Nuñez explains, “They may use your celebrations against you, to put you down or belittle you.”

7. They’re energy vampires.

Notice how you feel when you’re with this person, and afterward. Are they draining you? Chances are, they’re an energy vampire. Whatever form they take, energy vampires have one thing in common: They cannot create or sustain their own life force in any positive manner. So they latch on and feed off on others, slowly sucking the life out of everyone they come into contact with. Leeds says time with a fake friend will likely feel draining or disproportionately focused on them. “These are clear indicators that a big shift is needed if the friendship is to continue,” she adds.

8. They talk about you when you’re not around.

This one can be harder to spot, of course, depending on how calculated this person is with who they talk about you to. Some are especially manipulative when they mask talking bad about you by talking like they “just care so much” about you. However, if you catch wind of a so-called “friend” spreading “fake news” or fueling rumors about you, or just lying or trash-talking, Nuñez says that is not a genuine friend. Try to isolate the intentions behind their words, especially when they talk about others in your rave family whenever they aren’t around. If they are speaking ill of someone else who isn’t there to defend themselves, they will most certainly do the same to you. This is a hallmark trait of a fake friend.

9. They have nothing good to say towards you or about you.

Saying mean things to you also doesn’t have to be reserved to behind your back. Some fake friends will say nasty things straight to your face with little to no remorse. Nuñez says if they generally hold you in a negative light and have nothing nice to say about you or to you, that’s a big red flag. After all, true friends hold each other in high regard because they actually like each other… and show it naturally.

10. They blatantly disregard your boundaries.

“Since a fake friend is not invested in your well-being, they are more likely to be hurtful, for example, by disrespecting your boundaries,” Leeds says. Whether they are simply nasty to you or show blatant disrespect for your boundaries and needs, this shows they don’t really care about you.

11. Your friendship feels one-sided.

Do you ever feel as if you’re the only one to initiate communication in a friendship, make plans to get together, or offer support? Nuñez says fake friendships are often one-sided, with the fake friend constantly emotionally dumping their personal baggage on you, or unloading all their problems on you before you can even say hello, but then never offering you support when you need it. “One-sided friendships are characterized by one person doing significantly more than their fair share of the ‘heavy-lifting’ within a relationship,” adds Leeds.

Naturally, in a one-sided friendship, the giver or load-bearing friend is eventually going to start feeling resentment toward the other friend. Resentment is actually “one of the most surefire signs that your friendship is one-sided,” Leeds says, adding that if you have a growing sense of resentment toward your friend, you have likely fallen into overgiving.

12. Their actions and motivations feel exploitative.

One of the tell-tale signs of a fake friend is that they constantly seem to want or “need” something from you with no intentions of a return. “By being your friend, they use you to gain something,” Nuñez says. “It may be social status gain or to get a job or to be friends with your friends—anything to benefit themselves.” Oftentimes, fake friends are exploitative of their relationships, and they take advantage of others for personal gain.

13. They’re jealous of you and the thought of your success.

“With fake friends, there’s an underlying jealousy,” Nuñez says. They want to be friends with you because they have something to gain from you, “but there’s this underlying jealousy where they don’t want you to do too well,” she adds.

14. They’re always trying to sabotage you in some way.

Similar to competitiveness, a fake friend may feel the need to sabotage you in certain scenarios. Say you’re out at a music festival with your rave family and they see you hitting it off with a stranger in the crowd. This kind of friend may come up to you and say something purposefully embarrassing about you to deter your potential suitor.

15. Their behavior is repetitious.

Lastly, if there’s no sign of this behavior stopping, that’s a big red flag. You can be sure you’re dealing with a fake friend if “this person has done various things over and over that have shown they’re not a good friend,” Nuñez notes. There you have it, 15 tell-tale signs you may be surrounded by fake friendships. But what can you do about it?

What to do about it…

When you think it’s time to put a stop to a potentially fake friendship, how can you end it in a healthy, mature way? There are two main options: a “breakup” or distancing yourself. The best thing you can do is trust your intuition. If this person consistently makes you feel bad, that’s likely not a friendship that’s serving you and there is no need to keep entertaining the hope of a better relationship. “If it’s not a mutually beneficial friendship, it’s not worth it,” Nuñez adds. No matter what, be intentional, decisive, and assertive.

1. Try walking away for a while.

When we recognize a relationship isn’t serving us, it’s on our shoulders to walk away. It may feel difficult at the start, and you may even miss this friend, despite the knowledge that they were fake with you. Try backing off for a bit, creating distance, and allowing space for them to come to the table—if it’s a real friendship, they’ll eventually want to reach out.

“Ending the friendship may be as simple as no longer initiating contact or plans as frequently and allowing the connection to naturally fade,” Leeds says, adding that it can be helpful to invest your time in friendships that feel fulfilling, authentic, and mutual. The important thing to remember is that certain friendships can become toxic, and once you recognize it, don’t feel guilty if you have to end things. “You can support them from afar,” Nuñez adds. “[T]he main thing is taking care of yourself and finding people that help support you.”

2. Initiative a “break up.”

If you’re looking for a clean break, Nuñez says you should “break up” with them just as you would with someone you’re dating: by telling them the relationship is no longer serving you, and you think it would be best to go your separate ways. Leeds adds that having the conversation can “feel empowering or give you clarity or closure,” but for many people in a fake friendship, it doesn’t even seem necessary because “the friendship lacked the realness and intimacy that usually warrants this type of honest dialogue.”

Nuñez says that breaking things off with a friend is just like with a breakup between romantic partners. This isn’t the time to “ghost” your supposed friend or block them, just try to be honest with them. Say things like, “Right now, this friendship just isn’t working for me,” or “Our friendship isn’t helping me grow.”

Friends are always going to come and go, Nuñez says, and the more honest and open you can be, the more you can grow through the experience of the friend “breakup.”

3. Have an assertive conversation.

There may be potential to course-correct with open communication. Leeds elaborates, “it may be worth giving your friend the opportunity to turn things around by having an honest conversation about how you’ve been feeling.” Ask yourself what your friend is like in their other relationships, Leeds suggests. “If you have a hard time finding any solid, real friendships in their life, there’s little reason to believe you’ll be the exception to the rule.”

However you decide to go about it, it’s about staying true to yourself, your boundaries, and your needs.

H/T: Mind Body Green.